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In addition, head trainer Robert Garcia lives in Oxnard and would regularly make the five-hour drive up Highway 101 to supervise sparring. Upon learning Donaire had come back to Undisputed, Garcia was relieved.
“There’s a lot of distractions [in Las Vegas],” Garcia said. “He was basically training by himself when I wasn’t there, so it makes a big difference. When I’m not here, I know he’s got Bazzel, he’s got Brian, and everybody here that are pushing him, and that’s what he needed. This is the best place for him to do camp.”
Returning to an optimal environment to get ready for Mathebula (26-3-2, 14 KOs) could not have come at a better time. In a departure from other opponents, the IBF titleholder from South Africa will enjoy nearly five inches in height over Donaire, his WBO counterpart who checks in at a little over 5’5’’.
As a result, Garcia has hired taller sparring partners and has had to formulate a gameplan to address the angular discrepancy.
“This is a rare occasion where the other guy is taller than me, and I didn’t believe it at first when my manager Cameron Dunkin said he’s a legit 5’10’’, but I saw the tape, and he was,” Donaire said about Mathebula. “The guys Robert’s been bringing in are not only taller, but bigger, too, so I really get pushed to be at my best.”
In recent weeks, Donaire has not only focused on neutralizing his foes’ natural advantages in the ring, but also any artificial ones they could gain outside of it. With Conte by his side on “Chronicle Live” three weeks ago, he announced that he would become the first professional boxer to enroll in year-round random drug testing.
“He’s leading by example,” Conte said. “I believe his real reason is he’d like to show his fans he’s clean, he has nothing to hide, and I think it’s a great statement for a fighter to make for his fan base.”
Due to scheduling conflicts, the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) will not begin administering the program until Donaire’s next fight. In the big picture, however, setting a precedent for other fighters would cement a stellar legacy beyond the momentous accomplishment of defeating Mathebula for his sixth world title belt in four weight divisions.
“Right now the main task ahead of me is beating Mathebula on July 7 and nothing else,” Donaire said. “But with everything going on in boxing, I want people to know that it doesn’t matter what time, day, or place, if you want to test me, I’m ready.”
After watching Donaire sign autographs and pose for pictures with every last fan in the building, he put his latest choice in perspective.
“I’m here, I’m fair, and coming from the Bay Area where we’re always fighting for respect, I know I’m a clean fighter,” he said. “I want to show the fans. I want to show the kids. I think in the end, it’s good for boxing.”